Your Health in Action: 5 Clean Cooking Tips for Newbies

For those of you who follow my social media or have been reading the blog for a while, you’ve probably definitely seen me post about my experiences with Whole30 and paleo living. If you’re not familiar with Whole30, it is a nutritional program that lasts for 30 days and is designed to help people discover food sensitivities and kick their junk food addictions. When I first started dabbling in this way of eating in 2014, I quickly realized that I needed to do a lot of my own cooking — something that I’d had virtually no experience with before that time.

For a lot of people, including myself, transitioning to a cleaner way of eating can be intimidating because of the level of cooking and meal preparation that is often involved. Even now, after several rounds of Whole30, I still do not claim to be a particularly talented chef. However, over the years, I’ve significantly improved my culinary skills and picked up a lot of tricks for simplifying the clean cooking experience.

If you’re looking to make a few lifestyle changes and don’t know where to start, check out my tips below!

5 Clean Cooking Tips for Newbies

  1. Prep your meals ahead of time.
    I’ll let you in on a well-known secret: I’m a big fan of #MealPrepSundays. I love to set aside a few hours before the week begins to chop up some veggies, whip up a few dinners for class nights (usually this simple veggie curry), and prep seasonings for other recipes I’ll try throughout the week. I don’t pre-cook all of my meals, but by getting some of the prep work done on Sunday, I can save some time in the kitchen after work. Meal prep will make the cooking process a lot less overwhelming, because a lot of the work will have already been done! I use this weekly organizer to plan my meals.
  2. Sometimes it’s just easier to buy your produce pre-chopped…
    … and that’s totally ok! If it saves time and doesn’t seriously compromise the health benefits of the food you’re eating, why not simplify? I chop most of my veggies on the weekend, but I buy my cauliflower and broccoli already chopped into florets, and often buy my carrots pre-chopped as well. If it makes your life easier and you don’t mind the added cost, go for it!
  3. The Internet is your best friend.
    When following a more complicated recipe or trying out a new cooking technique, look no further than YouTube and Google. Thanks to the Internet, I now know how to poach chicken — and thankfully, it does not mean that I have to hunt my own poultry!
  4. Find your easy go-to’s.
    When you’re in a pinch, having a few simple items in the house that are ready-made can make dinnertime that much easier. For example, I eat a lot of cauliflower rice, so I end up buying it frozen through Bird’s Eye and Trader Joe’s. Find those shortcuts that work best for you, and stock up!
  5. Learn the easy swaps.
    Making a stir fry? Skip the soy sauce and add coconut aminos. Not sure if you have a dairy intolerance? Try cooking with ghee or coconut oil instead of butter. Skipping gluten? Use almond flour or shredded coconut instead of breadcrumbs to coat your chicken. These are just a few examples of some of the ingredient swaps you can make. For more ideas, check out my list of paleo kitchen essentials here!

Hope these tips help you along your own health and cooking journeys! Have any tips to share? Sound off in the comments below!

The Weekend Five: Movie Night Snacks That Won’t Throw Your Diet Off Track

Ever since I began my MBA program in May, schoolwork has consumed a lot of my free time on the weekends that I would normally spend with family or friends. As I start to develop more of a routine, I look for little ways to add balance to my life so that work and school aren’t my only focuses. From a beach day with one of my best friends to berry picking adventures in Ocoee, I still try to make time for myself to enjoy the world and everything it has to offer.

On the weekends when it’s harder to get out, there’s nothing better than a night in with the perfect movie, a warm blanket, and delicious snacks. Of course, when we think of movie-related snacks, we tend to think of super-buttery popcorn (admittedly a guilty pleasure of mine), giant soft drinks, and boxes of Junior Mints — all very high in calories and not particularly good for you. Luckily, I’ve mastered the art of selecting guilt-free movie night snacks that still pack a lot of flavor, and I’m excited to share those with you this week!

The Weekend Five: Movie Night Snacks That Won’t Throw Your Diet Off Track

Healthy Movie Night Snacks1. SkinnyPop Popcorn.
Anyone who has ever lived within a 5-mile radius of me knows how much I love popcorn. What I don’t love is seeing how much my skin breaks out and how bloated I feel after I eat it! SkinnyPop has been a deliciously satisfying alternative for me. Their popcorn is low in calories (just 39 calories per cup) and doesn’t have any of the hard-to-pronounce artificial ingredients that comprise so many of our grocery stores’ snack aisles. They offer several flavors (the white cheddar is another one of my favorites!), and they also sell individual 100-calorie packs if you want to have them pre-portioned for you. SkinnyPop was the perfect treat for last night’s viewing of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!

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2. Bowl of fruit.
I love to wash a bowl of grapes for an easy, no-mess movie snack, but the world is your oyster. Slice up a banana and combine with strawberries and blueberries for another healthy choice, or raid your fridge to mix up a fun fruit salad. That way, you’re getting plenty of nutrients while still enjoying yourself, and even if you go a little overboard, you probably aren’t doing yourself a whole lot of damage.

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The Better Chip3. Vegetable chips.
I’m obsessed with The Better Chip‘s Spinach and Kale chips, which have very few ingredients and still fulfill any chip cravings you might have. They have a variety of flavors to choose from, or you can go ahead and make your own. Love sweet potatoes? Try the Minimalist Baker’s Sweet Potato Chip recipe for something healthy, delicious and homemade.

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4. Veggies and hummus.
I don’t know about you, but I love to dunk baby carrots and other raw veggies in hummus! Hummus is filling enough that you’re likely to stop yourself from going completely overboard, and although there is some debate on the health benefits of legumes (sorry, paleo friends!), there is no denying that they taste absolutely amazing. 🙂

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ApplePizza5. Apple pizzas.
Cut up some apple slices, lather with almond butter, and sprinkle on raisins, unsweetened shredded coconut, and cinnamon! I could eat these for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but they also make for a delicious movie night snack. These are as much fun to make as they are to eat. They are filled with fiber and healthy fats, but will still satisfy your sweet tooth when you are looking for a healthy dessert.

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What are your favorite guilt-free movie night snacks? Share yours in the comments section below! 🙂

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back on TrackFor many of us, the beginning of a diet program can often feel like the beginning of a relationship. We’re excited to embark on something new, enthusiastic about the changes in our lives, and looking forward to the possibilities ahead. Of course, after that honeymoon period runs its course, sometimes it can be difficult to maintain that same level of enthusiasm toward the program, as we become complacent or begin to recognize the uncomfortable moments more often than we used to.

I began experimenting with a paleo lifestyle back in 2014 by completing my first Whole30, and since then, the program has played a significant role in my health and wellness. However, I sometimes struggle with motivation and consistency, and find my health journey to be a work in progress. The more that I talk to others in the Whole30 community, the more that I learn that a second, third, or fourth Whole30 can often be much harder than the first, because many of us do have difficulty staying on track even after we’ve experienced positive results.

Sounds a little counter-intuitive, right? Luckily, I’ve dedicated the better part of 2016 thus far to really focusing on ways to re-motivate ourselves once the magic wears off. Read below for my tips on keeping up with your program and remaining empowered even after the honeymoon period is over! 🙂

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals On Track

How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track1. Dedicate time for meal prep.
Let’s face it — eating healthy can be time-consuming! You’re preparing most of your own meals from scratch, avoiding a lot of the quick but nutrient-deficient shortcuts a lot of us fall victim to. Because of this, it can be so easy to give up after a long day of work and other responsibilities, and order takeout instead. An easy way to save time and take out a lot of the guesswork is to create a meal plan ahead of time and do a lot of the prep work early. For me, Sundays are the perfect day to decide what I’m going to eat each day (and yes, I do incorporate my social outings into that plan), buy the appropriate foods at the grocery store, and begin prepping those foods.

So what does “meal prep” mean to me? Typically, I’ll put on some vintage Keeping Up With The Kardashians (or another show that entertains me but doesn’t require too much concentration), and set aside an hour or two to chop up veggies for dishes I’ll eat throughout the week, wash fruit for easy grab-and-go access, and hard-boil some eggs to have a convenient protein source available at any time. Your meal prep can be as elaborate as you choose — some like to prepare all of their meals to reheat, and that works too! For me, having my veggies pre-washed and pre-chopped makes it easy to just throw them on the stove or in the oven later in the week, and saves me a ton of time!

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2. Make things exciting in the kitchen.
Browse Pinterest for cool recipes you can try (check mine out here for inspiration!), or invest in a new kitchen gadget you look forward to using. Find ways to spice things up in the kitchen — literally! When I started to grow sick of scrambled eggs, I started adding cumin and turmeric for a bold new flavor profile. When I’ve enjoyed a new ethnic dish and wanted to make a healthier version of it at home, I’ve often searched “lightened up __” or “paleo ___” to expand my culinary horizons. Figure out those routine favorites that you can make quickly and regularly, but continue to branch out so that things don’t become too stale. Why not aim to try one new recipe each week?

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How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track3. Incorporate positive mantras into your program.
I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember.  Since I was in middle school, I always associated health and weight loss goals as something negative, something to be ashamed of, instead of as a way to improve your overall well-being. A few months ago, I decided to flip the switch on that mindset by giving myself motivational notes to wake up to each morning. These quotes and messages give me a positive affirmation to focus on throughout the day, and remind me of how far I’ve come. The notes were so successful for me that they even went viral on the Whole30 Instagram page! 🙂 I try to create new words of encouragement for myself each and every month.

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4. Hide the scale.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve let that little number either make or break your whole day. One of the rules of the Whole30 program is to not weigh yourself for the entire 30 days, but over the years, this was the rule I always broke. I found that if I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, then even if I felt other positive changes from my diet (better skin, more energy, etc.), I often gave up halfway through the month. This January, I finally stowed the scale away in my guest room (out of sight, out of mind) and fully avoided it for the entire month. Taking a break from weighing myself multiple times per day was extremely helpful for me and showed me just how unhealthy my relationship with the scale truly was. If you consider yourself overly dependent on the scale, I challenge you to hide it for a month!

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5. Find accountability partners.
Use social media or find people in your real life with whom you can be accountable! I belong to a few private groups on Facebook, some dedicated to Whole30 and some more focused on clean eating as it differs by individual, and having a strong support system makes it that much easier to stay on track. Whether you join one of those private groups or simply find a gym buddy to keep you on your toes, find others who are just as health-focused and turn to each other!

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What are your tips for staying motivated? Share yours in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Networking Tips for Introverts

246Six years ago, if you came up to me and said that networking would be one of the keys to my success after college, I would have slapped you across the face.

Okay, I definitely wouldn’t have slapped you across the face (that would be pretty awful, wouldn’t it?), but the idea of networking was terrifying to a shy college freshman like me. The word “networking” evoked images of ill-fitting professional attire and awkward encounters with high-level executives who would never give a college student the time of day. To me, “networking” required an overly assertive, almost aggressive demeanor. How could an introvert like me ever compete with those big personalities?

What I didn’t know at eighteen years old, however, was that networking was not limited to professional development events and a formal exchange of business cards. By joining clubs on campus, making friends in my classes, participating in internships and getting to know my professors and advisors, I was actually building my network without even realizing it.

Networking ultimately led to my first job out of college and continues to play a huge role in my career today. I may be an introvert, but I have found ways to network that have worked well for me. To all of my shy or otherwise introverted readers out there, this article is for you!

The Weekend Five: Networking Tips for Introverts

awkward-small-talk1. Don’t think of it as “networking.”
Think of it as relationship building. By genuinely getting to know people, you not only create a stronger network, but you also improve your own quality of life! Your conversations don’t have to revolve entirely around a business pitch. As I mentioned before, networking doesn’t always take place at a formal networking event — a lot of times, it can happen in a classroom, an elevator, a club meeting or your dorm building. Talk to people and get to know them one-on-one. Start with people you may already cross paths with or with whom you may share a few mutual contacts. A lot of times, this is far less intimidating than walking right up to a complete stranger from the get-go.

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2. Get involved in an organization.
Whether you enjoy professional student organizations or community service projects, join a group (or two) that introduces you to new people. By working toward a common goal or sharing a similar interest, you have an easy way to break the ice while doing something you enjoy. I still keep in touch with many of my fellow officers from the organizations I was involved with in college, and today I am getting to know new people in my college’s alumni association by attending their events and meetings as well!

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49d6977a63d509aaed85f0147d44ba793. Find commonalities.
Networking doesn’t have to mean diving headfirst into a conversation about your company’s products and services. Sometimes, a great way to build your network is to start by finding things you have in common. At one networking event, I found myself talking with a guy about our recent travels, and by the end of our conversation, I was invited to be a guest speaker in one of the classes he taught. At another event, I bonded with the lady behind me at the buffet over our shared interest in some of the food. It turned out she was a very important person on the board of an organization that I worked with, and now she knew who I was! Pro tip: If you’re feeling really lost at a formal networking event, head over to the food table and strike up a conversation with one of the people nearby. People love talking about food (and trying to guess what some of the interesting looking appetizers are!).

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4. Attend events.
Leave the house. It’s not easy to meet people and form lasting connections from the comfort of your couch. (If it were, Tinder would have a much higher success rate!) Attend events that interest you – not just networking events, but professional development workshops, guest speakers, social events, etc. Find a friend to attend with you if it will bring you out of your shell a bit more, but if your friends aren’t interested in the types of events you like, go by yourself. Because most of my friends did not have my major in college, I attended a lot of club meetings and agency tours on my own, and I don’t regret it for a minute. I made new friends that way, and learned a lot about my major and the industry that I wanted to go into!

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Comfort Zone5. Get out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes you will need to do the things that scare you, and that’s okay. I say “yes” to opportunities constantly, even when they seem intimidating, because I know they will help me to grow. That’s why I take on so many public speaking engagements and try to break out of my shell at events — I never want my nerves to keep me from meeting people or from growing personally and professionally. I draw my energy from within and require that time to myself to recharge and refocus, but that shouldn’t limit me from getting to know others and setting goals for myself outside of my comfort zone. You don’t need to do anything that conflicts with your personal values, but I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone the next time you attend an event and get to know someone new.

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What are your networking tips for introverts? Share yours in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Best Things About Having a Sister

bestthingsabouthavingasisterWhen I was two years old, I became a big sister. Growing up, we had the typical love-hate sibling-rivalry relationship, and although we were partners in crime, we also constantly fought. After I graduated from high school and moved three hours away, we grew a lot closer, and two years later, she joined me at my university. Over the last four years in the same area, we’ve had a lot of adventures and helped each other through the tough times as well. She is my best friend, and my only regret is not realizing that when we were little!

This weekend, we packed up my sister’s apartment for her big move to graduate school. The move was bittersweet — while I’m ecstatic for her to embark on this new chapter of her life, I’m sad that we won’t be living 30 minutes away from each other anymore. (I’ll also miss my adorable niece, Lucy the chihuahua mix!) Today’s Weekend Five is in honor of my amazing sister — and all sisters everywhere!

The Weekend Five: Best Things About Having a Sister

1. You have a best friend at birth.
A sister is basically a built-in best friend. If I get married someday, I have no idea who the groom will be — but I’ve known who my maid of honor will be for nearly 23 years. Raised by the same parents, you grow up in similar circumstances, often participating in the same activities and developing some of the same interests. Even if your personalities are completely different, you still have a similar upbringing and shared experiences that set you apart from everyone else.

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11913243_10155900359350627_26340899_n2. You can empathize with each other over strange family dynamics.
My sister always joke that we bond the most over being annoyed with our parents. While this isn’t actually true, your siblings do understand (better than anyone else) the family dynamics, and can laugh or commiserate with you when a relative says something silly or offensive.

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3. You can read each other’s minds.
I can make a face at my sister or say one word, and she knows exactly what I’m thinking. I love that we can burst out laughing about something that no one else understands, almost as if we have our own language. Telepathy is a superpower that not everyone is lucky enough to possess, but when you have a sibling, telepathy is a very real thing.

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4. Your sister won’t judge you, because she has to love you.
While this can be a stretch for some sibling relationships, I am fortunate to have a sister who doubles as my support system. I’m a perfectionist who always tries to be on, especially in a very people-driven career, but with my sister, I don’t have to be perfect — I can confide in her about mistakes I’ve made and decisions I struggle with, and she listens and gives helpful feedback. She knows she can always do the same with me. We are not trying to impress or compete with one another.

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5. You have someone who can be a total weirdo with you.
My sister and I have the goofiest conversations that — as evidenced by #3 on this list — only we understand. No topic is ever off limits, and we can act like complete dorks together without worrying about how we are perceived. I love having so many crazy inside jokes with one person!

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Best of luck in grad school, Julie! Readers, what do you love most about your siblings?

The Weekend Five: Worst Girlfriends in History

Elizabeth_Bathory_PortraitLast year, I wrote a blog post about the worst boyfriends in history – and I’m not talking about my ex who looked like Count Chocula. From Henry VIII (who executed more than one wife and invented a religion simply so he could get a divorce) to Vlad the Impaler (who has the word “impaler” in his name!), the list tackled five male historical figures who were not only ruthless and manipulative, but who would also make horrible boyfriends. Did your boyfriend forget your anniversary? Well, he’s a saint next to Emperor Nero.

Of course, I couldn’t put together a “worst boyfriends” list without posting a list of the worst girlfriends in history as well! Because of women’s roles over the past few centuries, this was a much harder list to create. A lot of the women who were deemed “crazy” by society were actually victims of infidelity and physical/mental abuse, so there was a lot more to the story than met the eye. However, a few of history’s leading ladies still stand out as pretty bad girlfriends/wives.

Dust off those history books, kids. You’re about to get schooled.

The Weekend Five: Worst Girlfriends in History

1. Elizabeth Bathory.
Nobody wants to bring home a serial killer, and that’s exactly what this Hungarian countess was. Over the years, she tortured and brutally murdered hundreds of young servant girls. Some stories even suggest that she drank and bathed in their blood to steal their beauty and youth. Although those stories are probably just a myth, Lady Dracula was not someone you’d want to spend time alone with.

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Mary_I_of_England2. Mary I of England.
The daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, this queen burned so many people at the stake in the name of “religion” that history has nicknamed her “Bloody Mary.” Often dubbed one of the most evil women in history, she exiled and executed hundreds of Protestants simply because they were Protestant. This was one religious extremist you wouldn’t want to introduce to your parents (and believe me, I’ve dated my share of religious extremists).

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3. Elizabeth I of England.
We can’t forget Henry VIII’s other daughter, who also eventually became the Queen of England. Unlike her half-sister, Elizabeth never married, though she did entertain offers from several suitors throughout her life. It turned out that Elizabeth was in love with Robert Dudley, her friend since childhood who happened to already be married. Over the years, she considered many proposals, but ultimately turned them all down and ruled alone. She was a powerful queen whose reign ushered in a golden age. However, she would not be one of history’s best girlfriends even if she did decide to settle down, as it was clear she would always carry a torch for Robert Dudley.

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4. Mary, Queen of Scots.
Mary always reminded me of one of those girls who says “I hate drama,” but always seems to attract it. After the death of her first husband Francis, Mary was married to her first cousin Lord Darnley. However, she most likely had an affair with her private secretary, who was later murdered by Darnley and others. Soon after, Darnley was murdered – probably by James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, with whom Mary conspired. As if this wasn’t soap opera enough, Mary and the Earl of Bothwell then married. Mary, Queen of Scots, is one of history’s worst girlfriends in part because of the men she was drawn to (sorry, Mary, it happens to the best of us). If you were to begin courting her, you might want to make sure there wasn’t another jealous guy out there looking to kill you.

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5. Eve.
According to some religions, Eve was the first woman on Earth, created as a companion for Adam. After listening to a trouble-making serpent who probably was getting bored in the garden, Eve ate the forbidden apple from the tree of knowledge, and soon she and Adam were evicted from Eden. The worst punishment of all? God decided to make childbirth unbearably painful. Eve ends up on the “worst girlfriends in history” list for taking advice from a serpent with legs (aren’t they creepy enough without legs?) instead of using critical thinking skills to weigh the pros and cons, and ultimately getting herself and Adam kicked out of paradise.

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Who would you consider one of the worst girlfriends in history? Sound off in the comments below.

Forget Quinoa! 5 Superfoods You Should Be Eating

Forget Quinoa! 5 Superfoods You Should Be EatingFlip through any health magazine in your neighborhood supermarket, and you’ll quickly find an article about the next greatest superfood. In the past few years, every time I’ve searched for clean and healthy recipes, I’ve been immediately inundated with quinoa and kale dishes to the point of nausea. Does anyone else feel the same?

Throughout my Whole30 journey, I have tried to incorporate a lot of nutrient-dense foods into my diet, and am amazed at how much better I feel. Over time, I have not only discovered just how delicious they can be, but how many health benefits these foods have. They may not be as glam as the quinoa-kale salads that have exploded all over my home page on Pinterest, but they can still be prepared in fun and flavorful ways and deserve a little love.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a medical professional. I am not a licensed dietician — I just happen to play one on TV.

Without further adieu…

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Forget Quinoa! 5 Superfoods You Should Be Eating1. Sweet Potato
Forget the marshmallow-filled sweet potato casseroles you grew up eating. Sweet potatoes on their own are an excellent source of Vitamin A (377% of your daily Vitamin A needs in just one cup), which is important for good vision and healthy skin, among other things. Sweet potatoes also have nearly as much potassium as bananas, but only 1/3 of the amount of sugar. Paleo foodies are already aware of the many awesome ways to prepare your sweet potatoes, but for those who need a little inspiration, check out my Pinterest page for recipes. Pop over to Lexi’s Clean Kitchen for my favorite sweet potato gnocchi recipe!

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2. Cabbage
Cabbage gets a bad rap, thanks to this scene from Austin Powers (you’re welcome), but aside from its reputation as a food for circus folks, this vegetable is actually packed with tons of health benefits. Cabbage is a good source of Vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting. Cabbage also has cancer-fighting properties and is good for your immune system, heart health and more. Not sure how to incorporate it into your diet? Try these garlicky cabbage “steaks” from Rockin Mom’s Kitchen and you won’t regret it!

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Forget Quinoa! 5 Superfoods You Should Be Eating3. Eggs
No, they will not give you heart disease. Eggs actually have the potential to improve your HDL (the good kind of cholesterol) and are a complete source of protein. They are pretty much perfect! I hard-boil several eggs early in the week as a grab-and-go healthy snack, but they can be prepared in a variety of ways. Dani Spies from Clean and Delicious has a great 101 video about how to buy, store and cook eggs. Vegetarians, this is a great protein option for you!

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4. Blueberries
As a child, I always heard that if it could stain your clothes, it was probably pretty healthy. Of course, you could easily stain your clothes with food dyes and plenty of not-so-healthy snack foods, but the rule more or less applies for fruits and veggies. Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and a relatively low glycemic fruit, which means they won’t wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Eat them raw or bake them into something – the world is your oyster.

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Forget Quinoa! 5 Superfoods You Should Be Eating5. Pineapple
Not only do pineapples make excellent homes for hyperactive sea creatures (here’s looking at you, Spongebob), but they also taste awesome and have a lot of important nutrients. Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which reduces swelling, bruising and inflammation. One cup of pineapple contains more than 100% of your recommended daily Vitamin C, which is vital for the immune system. Try cooking up some pineapple chunks in coconut oil and cinnamon for a sweet but still healthy treat. If nothing else, it will make your kitchen smell fantastic!

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What are some superfoods you enjoy? Share your favorites in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned From 1990s Pop Culture

Lessons Learned from 1990s Pop CultureAs someone who was born in 1990 and lived through most of that decade, I will always have a soft spot for the 90s and the music, movies and TV shows that came with it. Of course, the subject always tends to be a little overdone, but I couldn’t help but share my own feelings about that scrunchie-filled time in our history!

There are a lot of surprising lessons we can all learn from 1990s pop culture, which we’ll discuss in this weekend’s edition of The Weekend Five. Feel free to add your own to the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned From 1990s Pop Culture

1. Inanimate objects come to life as soon as you leave the room.
Thanks to movies like Toy Story and the Brave Little Toaster sequels, a part of me grew up believing that whenever I left the house, my toys and household appliances gained consciousness and had conversations with each other. (I’m still not entirely unconvinced.) Now in 2015, this is probably why I can’t find a few things in my kitchen… They simply walked off to enjoy a new life.

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Five Lessons Learned from 1990s Pop Culture2. If you want to be someone’s lover, you have to get with their friends.
I’m assuming the Spice Girls meant that you should befriend their friends, and not literally “get with” them. In the song Wannabethe Spice Girls make a very good point — if you’re interested in someone, you need to show interest in their friends and the other important people in your boo’s life as well. They also say something about a “zig-a-zig-ah,” whose definition happens to be one of the biggest mysteries of the 1990s.

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3. “We were on a break” is never a good excuse for anything you did to upset your significant other.
Actually, never turn to Ross Geller from Friends for any kind of relationship advice. That should be the real lesson here.

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4. With the proper makeover, the nerdiest girl in school can transform into the prom queen and land the hottest guy in school.
This “lesson” eventually led to horribly unrealistic expectations for dorky girls everywhere (myself included). Sadly, my makeover didn’t come until college, at a time when nerdiness and “quirkiness” had started to become vaguely attractive traits anyway. I had to watch She’s All That many times before I realized that Freddie Prinze Jr. was never going to enroll at my school.

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Five Lessons Learned from 1990s Pop Culture5. Don’t ever talk to a girl who says she just has a friend.
In his song Just A Friend, when Biz Markie asks the girl he likes if she has a boyfriend, she responds, “No I don’t. I only have a friend.” They build a relationship, but when he goes to visit her at college, he quickly runs into her male “friend” kissing her in the dorms. The moral to the story? Don’t ever talk to a girl who says she just has a friend. Ladies: If a guy asks you if you’re seeing someone and you tell him “I only have a friend,” you sound extremely sketchy. We really do have platonic male friends, but if we feel the need to mention them when a new guy asks if you’re single, the relationship probably isn’t all that platonic.

(Side Note: I know that this song came out in 1989, but it feels so 90s to me and it officially went platinum in 1990, so I am including it in 1990s pop culture!)

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What are your favorite lessons from 1990s pop culture? Share yours in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned from Audrey Hepburn Characters

Five Lessons Learned from Audrey Hepburn CharactersEverything I know, I learned from Audrey Hepburn.

Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but ever since I first watched Roman Holiday back in high school, I have been in awe of the glamorous actress and her equally glamorous characters. I dressed up as Holly Golightly for my decades-themed 21st birthday party (complete with the fancy cigarette holder), and whenever I’m stressed out, I’ll often turn on one of her movies to relax. (I even somehow integrated Audrey’s film characters into a blog post about balancing health and a social life.) The actress herself was someone to aspire to – a humanitarian and devoted mother.

This weekend’s blog focuses on a few of the lessons to be learned from some of her more popular roles. Share your own favorites in the comments section below!

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1. “Oh, but Paris isn’t for changing planes, it’s… it’s for changing your outlook… for throwing open the windows and letting in… letting in la vie en rose.” – Sabrina Fairchild, Sabrina (1954)
Early in the movie, a lovesick and insecure Sabrina travels from New York to Paris to attend culinary school, and she emerges a sophisticated and confident young woman. The lesson to be learned from this? Sometimes, all you need is a change in scenery to become a different person. For Sabrina, that new backdrop is the Eiffel Tower, but in reality it can be anywhere – a new city, a new country, or even a new park across town that you’ve never visited before. Travel, no matter how far the distance, can change your perspective on the world, on people and on life in general. (And of course, when in doubt, Paris is always a good idea.)

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Five Lessons Learned from Audrey Hepburn Characters2. “There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl’s complexion.” – Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Not all attention is positive attention. Holly Golightly learns this the difficult way, as she finds herself at the center of more than one scandal throughout the film. Certain shades of limelight, in fact, can lead to a negative public perception of a person. It’s okay to make mistakes from time to time, but important to strongly consider the choices you make and align them with the reputation you want to have.

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3. “When you can be fancy-free and flash a smile that folks come flocking to see, you’ll be as lovely as can be.” – Jo Stockton, Funny Face (1957)
Positivity goes a long way. Sometimes, a simple smile can make a person’s whole day that much brighter. We may worry about how well we’re dressing for our body types or when was the last time we had our roots touched up, but an even more important lesson in how to be lovely is to consider the way we make others feel and the type of energy we put out into the world.

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5 Lessons Learned from Audrey Hepburn Characters4. “You musn’t give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get, until they’re strong enough to run into the woods or fly into a tree. And then to a higher tree and then to the sky.” – Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Don’t go into a relationship with the intent to change someone. If the person you fall for tells you that he or she doesn’t want to settle down, believe that person. Never idealize someone to the point that their flaws or even their differences in opinion don’t exist. Recognize people for whom they are and don’t try to pin down someone who doesn’t want to be pinned down.

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5. When in doubt, break the rules and take a mental health day. – Princess Ann, Roman Holiday (1953)
This lesson isn’t a quote from Roman Holiday, but it does partially sum up the film’s premise. Princess Ann has grown weary of her press engagements during her tour of Europe, so she escapes to spend a day as a Roman tourist, making a few unlikely friends along the way. The film ends on a bittersweet note, and she ultimately returns to her duties as princess, but Ann does have the opportunity to experience Rome from a different perspective and make lasting memories of her time in the ancient city. Sometimes in life, it’s okay to take a break from your obligations and do something exciting for your own well-being. Recognize when you are being stretched too thin, and do something about it.

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What are your favorite lessons from Audrey Hepburn’s iconic movie roles? Sound off in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Modern Twists to Your Favorite Disney Movies, Part II

Modern Twists to Your Favorite Disney MoviesFor many of us, Disney’s animated movies were a huge part of our childhood. Twenty years later, it can be fun to watch these movies as adults and relive that simpler time in our lives.

Of course, as we indulge in the classics, it’s fun to ask ourselves how these movies would differ if they took place in modern times! Back in March, I went through the plots of a few Disney favorites and came up with my own versions of these movies in 2015.

However, there are still plenty of popular Disney movies that I didn’t get to write about last time around! This week, I share my present-day plots for five more Disney movies. Enjoy!

The Weekend Five: Modern Twists to Your Favorite Disney Movies, Part II

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
Meet Snow White, a beautiful girl who “hates drama.” Unfortunately for Snow White, drama seems to follow her everywhere, because everyone is jealous of how beautiful she is. Her own stepmother tries to ruin her life by placing a virus on Snow’s Macbook and iPhone, hoping to cut off the girl’s communication with the outside world. This backfires when Snow White meets a group of seven computer engineering students at the local college, who help fix her Apple products and ultimately invite her to move in with them. Her boyfriend isn’t thrilled about her living with multiple guys, but as she explains to him, “Girls just don’t really like me!”

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Modern Day Twists to Disney Movies2. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Needing an escape from her boring life, Alice decides to visit a new bar in town called The Rabbit Hole. After taking a shot of something that says Drink Me, Alice finds a passageway to a secret club downstairs called Wonderland. There she is introduced to a strange underground music scene and makes a few bizarre new friends. She finds herself especially intrigued by a guy she meets, known only as The Mad Hatter, and accepts his invitation to an Unbirthday Party the next night. However, after spending more time with these new friends over the next few weeks, she realizes how weird and flaky they really are, and ultimately goes back to her regular life.

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3. Peter Pan (1953)
Career-driven and successful Wendy Darling loves her boyfriend, Peter, but worries about the fact that he still lives in his fraternity house five years after they graduated from college. After work each day, she takes care of Peter and his frat brothers by cleaning the house and cooking them dinners, and finds herself wishing Peter would apply for a job already. In the end, she dumps him for an older guy who happens to have a job and a boat.

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Modern Twists to Your Favorite Disney Movies4. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Aurora is placed under a sleeping curse, in which she sleeps through several world wars and significant historical events. When she finally wakes up, she must adapt to a changing world. One day, she hears a beautiful singing voice in the forest, but is saddened to discover that it is in fact Justin Bieber.

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5. Aladdin (1992)
Aladdin falls for Jasmine, an Instagram-famous lifestyle personality who lives in his hometown and has no idea that he exists. To make matters worse, her boyfriend Jafar has reached a similar level of online fame, mostly because of his flair for ironic facial hair. In a fit of desperation, Aladdin turns to local social media/PR agency Social Genie, who helps him to create popular social media profiles that transform his image. Jasmine quickly falls for Aladdin. In the end, she learns that his awesome online life was completely fake, but still decides to give him a chance.

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How do you think your favorite Disney films would have gone in 2015? Share your ideas in the comments below!